Post-apocalyptic scenarios are a dime a dozen these days so it comes down to what makes a particular film on the subject stand out above the rest. I think a key aspect is consistency in tone, pacing, and adherence to the rules established early in the story. I think this is where Desolate falters from memorable to passable at best.
The story jumps back and forth over this line from Mad Max like conditions to modern day amenities like fully functional cafes and auto repair. But it starts with a family of four sons and their father literally fighting to the death over fuel and water. And let’s not forget that the U.S. dollar is still valid as well. The most glaring inconsistency is the still functional society completely void of any kind of law enforcement. Is there still a government in place? Is law and order still a thing or a moment in time long since passed? There are moments that hint at both versions being true, a post-apocalypse contained within a small town where at its borders society still carries on. It’s confusing. I think the solution to their problem is simply… move away.
Visually speaking the film is fine but overall nothing new here. You’ve seen the vast wasteland of a place lost to time. The drab, dirty desert enveloping anything green and vibrant, it’s all there. When this started it immediately reminded me of another similarly themed but better executed film titled The Rover, featuring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. The difference being with The Rover it made you feel the grit and listlessness of a dying humanity. It felt lived in and truly hopeless. With Desolate it never feels bigger than trivial territorial disputes between different gangs. This all said, despite the established scenario essentially being thrown to the wind, Desolate provides enough of a visceral grip to pull its audience along, if only limping there, to a somewhat satisfying conclusion, even if it is rife with unanswered questions.
The ultimate clash comes when recently believed-to-be-dead brother comes back to life seeking vengeance against his brothers whom he thinks abandoned him during a gunfight. Thing is, he was shot and fell leaving them no real choice. His displeasure in his older brothers’ decision to leave him isn’t really earned; they thought he was dead. Period. They had to escape or find themselves in a shallow grave right beside him. It was never as if they brought him there in some sort of attempt to kill him once and for all. If the younger brother should have a bone to pick with anyone it should be their overly manipulative and physically grueling father. He led them, he forced them into a life of what seems to be wholly unnecessary.
Now let’s talk about the relationship between the brothers, truthfully there really isn’t one. They might as well be strangers the way they treat one another. This isn’t to say they know nothing about one another, there’s clearly a history there, but more so it’s about the lack of decency among them. Their environment is a cold and merciless place so their relationship has to mirror this? They move beyond brothers being rude and mischievous with one another and become downright cruel to each other. One brother dies, they bury them and move on as if it was a farm animal they had to put down. There’s a coldness to everything about this family but we’re supposed to believe that loyalty still exists among them. It’s that inconsistency rearing its ugly head once again. Not only is it tonally all over the place, their lack of humanity towards even those closest to them creates a story of characters that don’t matter, they never earn the interest or loyalty of the audience. These are hateful characters that die regularly and without any real consequence.
With such a short runtime so many different avenues are superficially explored and then passed over simply because there isn’t enough time. The brothers need fuel so they’re going to rob a local drug dealer replete with fuel and cash too apparently. It goes wrong sending the youngest brother on a revenge fueled journey to confront his brothers only this happens in the last maybe thirty minutes of the film. Oh also the money they stole belonged to an Asian gangster who kidnaps women openly and takes the youngest brother’s girlfriend as ransom for the money stolen from him. A random hero appears late in the story who’s never fully identified and given no reason for his presence decides to help the youngest brother for no apparent objective beyond he heard about it over the radio. As the girl is kidnapped you expect a violent laden rescue mission to get her back but instead the random hero just walks in and takes her back, next to no resistance in doing so.
It feels like they had more than enough story to fill a solid two hour thriller. Maybe the budget just wasn’t there because this is a story that somehow feels both bloated and rushed all culminating in an ending that makes everything that transpired before it feel utterly pointless. I was entertained by this movie at times, when I was able to look beyond the mistakes, but overall I just didn’t care about any of it and the ending simply meant I could turn it off.
Unrated: Bloody violence throughout, language, drug use; R Rated equivalent
Runtime: 86 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Action, Adventure
Starring: Will Brittain, Callan Mulvey, Tyson Ritter, Bill Tangradi, Jonathan Rosenthal, James Russo
Directed By: Frederick Cipoletti
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3/ Acting: 3/ Directing: 2.5/ Visuals: 2.5
OVERALL: 2.5 Nerdskulls
Check out the trailer below:
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